Today we celebrate Juneteenth, the anniversary of Union Army General, Gordon Granger, announcing that all enslaved people in Texas were free. Texas was the most remote, and the last, state in the Confederacy to officially receive the news.
In honor of the holiday, a vigil was held at DC’s own Woodrow Wilson High School as part of efforts to change the school’s name. The DC History of Justice Collective is heading a grassroots effort to change the school’s name to better reflect the city’s, as well as national, values. President Wilson’s administration is remembered for demoting black workers in the civil service as well as instituting racist policies, including segregation in housing and education, that destroyed the black middle class in Washington, DC.
As highlighted in Ciesla’s “Rosenwald” documentary (the full clip of which can be seen here), Woodrow Wilson saw the film “Birth of a Nation,” by D.W. Griffith, at the White House in 1915. The film borrowed heavily from Wilson’s own work, “A History of the American People”. While the film today is recognized for its vile racist propaganda and the part it played in reviving the KKK in America, at the time Wilson said of the film, “It is all so terribly true.”
Like Rosenwald at the time who, along with the NAACP, helped to get the film banned from playing in Chicago, there is an understanding now that “Birth of a Nation,” is a deeply racist and fictitious portrayal of history. That understanding should extend to President Woodrow Wilson himself. He should no longer be honored with a school that bears his name.
Ciesla’s offices are currently closed. We hope you all stay safe and healthy in these uncertain times.
Take care, Aviva and the Ciesla staff.
A Rosenwald Park
Rosenwald School News
March 14th is known to some math enthusiasts as “Pi Day,” and to even more as the birthday of legendary physicist Albert Einstein. Looking back, it’s hard to forget one of his most iconic birthdays in 1949, when children who were relocated from a displaced persons camp visited Einstein at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Also present, the man responsible for the children’s visit, none other than Julius Rosenwald’s son, William Rosenwald. We were proud to have interviewed William Rosenwald’s daughters, Alice Rosenwald and Elizabeth Varet, in Rosenwald.
Series Debuts on the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Watch a Free Rosenwald Bonus Feature on Madam C.J. Walker
We were honored to interview DC-based journalist and writer A’Lelia Bundles in Rosenwald. Bundles spoke of how her great-great-grandmother Madam C.J. Walker donated funds to build a YMCA in Indianapolis.
After you see the Netflix series on Madam Walker, make sure to pick up her book Self Made (the inspiration for the series starring Octavia Spencer). Self Made was originally published as On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.
Local Advice on the Pandemic
“These tragic losses underscore the need for all of us to seriously undertake social distancing and to stay at home whenever possible—not just for our own sake, but for the safety and wellbeing of each other, especially in consideration of the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to this virus.”
‘We refuse to let people forget’: In Virginia, a push to remember historically black high schools before they disappear
The Washington Post reported on movements in Virginia and Maryland to remember historically black high schools.One group is campaigning for a national park to honor Rosenwald schools.
This month, The Washington Examiner published a historical account of the of education among African Americans, highlighting the role that Rosenwald schools played.
A recent article by the president of Berea College celebrates the lives of Julian Bond and his family and the roles that impartial love, a founding principle of the university. Read the full piece here.
Rosenwald’s childhood home has been renamed in his honor. Get the full scoop here!
Random House recently published a new volume of letters by Ralph Ellison, who was recipient of a Rosenwald grant. Visit here to read The New Yorker‘s review.
This year, Penguin released Romance in Marseille, a previously unpublished novel by Claude McKay – a recipient of a Rosenwald grant and a seminal writer of the Harlem Renaissance. The novel explores interconnected themes of race, class, and queer sexuality. Read the full review from The New York Times here!
Brent Leggs is the director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He and his colleagues are working to protect the remaining Rosenwald schools and other sites significant to black history. Leggs himself graduated from a Rosenwald school. Read the full article from The New Yorker here.